Friday, July 4, 2014

The Air Up There (1994) Review:

Kevin Bacon is a good actor. He has shown that he has gained considerable experience over time and has picked various films to be in that people always remember him from. But like many other actors, they choose to be in films that are somehow odd concoctions that are questionable to how they were even given a green light. This is one of those strange films. It has plot, but its direction is intriguingly out of place at times. Also for a movie starring Kevin Bacon, it really doesn't showcase him. There's a lot to at look at for what worked and what could've been improved over its flaws.

Yeah, he's smiling,...but not for the reasons you think
Viewers are introduced to Jimmy Dolan (Kevin Bacon), a selfish, cocky headed recruiter to St. Joe's basketball team. He's been working for several years and feels that when his boss retires, his seat is already set for him. Turns out though, according to his boss, he still "doesn't have what it takes" to lead. Then, out of the blue Jimmy finds what looks like could be a potential recruit for the team, but is quickly shot down from his superior. So being the rebel that he is, he decides to find this recruit anywho on his own. Surprisingly, later on his superior has no problem with what he did. He disobeyed a direct order, which means punishment not reversal of the expected reaction. That's very cliché and unrealistic.

The recruit that Jimmy is looking for is an African, specifically in Kenya named Saleh (Charles Gitonga Maina) who has quite a bit of length to his height. Seriously, this guy is TALL. Saleh is apart of a Kenyan tribe called the Winabe and Jimmy hopes to earn their trust. And how better to do that than take part in their traditions and culture. Another cliche aspect to the plot’s writing. This is not the first time this kind of experience has been shown, especially with African tribes. Why is it always with the African tribes? Apparently a number of these scenes were supposed to be funny when in fact they come off either unfunny or uncalled for. This movie is rated PG and yet people are cursing, blurting out sexual slang and even a scene with blood involving a knife. How is that acceptable? Who rated this movie?

This also demonstrates the incompetence of the director and writer. The writer Max Apple, who only worked on two other productions in his life, didn't make a screenplay with much cleverness or distinguished traits.  Most, if not all of it is generic and out of place. Worser so, is that Paul Michael Glaser has flimsy directional skills; especially for accepting Apple's screenplay without even suggesting more rewrites. A big chunk of the story's first two acts focus on Jimmy trying to earn the tribes trust which is out of his own selfish motivations. Who cares, there are other things that could've been looked upon, than it taking up the majority of the running time. Musically speaking, David Newman's score was appropriate to the setting and tried to make it as up beat as possible but it had nothing memorable. The camera work by Dick Pope was acceptable too. A number of shots contained a lot of African terrain and helped at least give the film some scope.

This guy though,...he should've went somewhere!
Possibly the only character with enough true saving grace to the film is Charles Maina as the Winabe basketball recruit. Saleh as an individual has more charm than any other character in the entire running time. With his selfless personality and genuine smile, it is difficult not to enjoy him when he's on screen. It's shocking actually because again, Kevin Bacon stars in it too, yet he comes off just as generic and boring as the rest of the cast accept Charles Maina. Even weirder is that Maina didn't go on to be anything bigger. How come? The man acted respectively, why shouldn't he be given another chance? It's not a terrible film, but there's nothing that hasn't been presented before. See it for Charles Maina's performance.

Even with Kevin Bacon on board, this sports comedy isn't all that funny or entertaining. The only actor to stand out is Charles Maina. The rest of the cast (including Bacon) are average at best with a weak script and misguided direction.

Points Earned --> 5:10

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